The Bulls have made early inroads this season, and writing them off after one Super Rugby loss would be premature, writes Khanyiso Tshwaku.
After the relative overachievement of last season, the Bulls’ big mission statement this year has been: there is life after losing many key players.
But climbing Super Rugby’s mountain will not be easy.
Winning a tournament that sees teams playing 15 matches and clocking up voyager miles is tougher than a route to the Rugby World Cup final.
At the World Cup, a national team only needs seven matches of varying intensity to lift the William Webb Ellis trophy.
Factor in the minimum four Australasian matches South African teams have to undertake in any Super Rugby tournament, and suddenly the World Cup seems not that difficult to win.
But that excuse has also worn thin.
In their three title triumphs, the Bulls, on three occasions, overcame those challenges, which were buttressed by superb home form.
And with the tournament revamp three years ago, there’s no longer a case where any South African team spends more than a month travelling.
It is premature to say the men in blue will go all the way.
They still have to navigate more brutal local derbies, as well as trips to Brisbane and Melbourne in Australia.
The box that has been ticked correctly is their refusal to shift from their choreographed violence.
It has been simple and mightily effective and it lends itself to season-long sustainability.
There is an element of shrewdness in how the Pretoria-based team has been going about its business, which is a mirror of the assurance coach Frans Ludeke has in his charges.
They haven’t won in Christchurch in 17 years, so let’s put their crushing loss yesterday to the Crusaders aside.
This season, tries for them have been plentiful and their willingness to go wide has been the sea change, even though the dreaded high ball is still used too much.
Puddles of quicksand lie in wait as there are other teams, like the Crusaders, who have the brain and brawn to counter the Bulls’ menace.
Defences will wise up and strengthen up, but the Bulls’ template will have a high success rate if executed accurately.
But their grunt will not look pretty and they will lose more matches.
Their loss yesterday must also be seen in context. Only the Crusaders had an unbeaten season, in 2002.
So, there is still something dangerous about the Bulls, and they won’t need a matador to keep up their stomp.